What is a business outcome and why is it so often not supported by the IT within a business?
To start with let’s look at what I mean by a business outcome. A business outcome is a strategic goal that a business is focused on. The problem is many businesses tend to confuse business outcomes with underlying project outcomes. Like what products should we buy, or process should we use? To deliver a true business outcome you need to come at it with the end in mind. If you work up from a project, then the chances are you’ll miss the goal and also waste time and money doing it.
In 2016 a Pulse of Profession report from the PMI (Project Management Institute) claimed that 83% of businesses lacked the skills in “benefit realisation”. With only half claiming project benefits were linked to business goals. It seems many projects fail because the project becomes central rather than the business benefits. This can lead on average to 10% of every $1 spent being left on the table.
I’ll give you an example of this. Let’s look at the traditional desktop build a business gives its users. In 20+ years of work I’ve never had anything that allows me to work in a responsive and productive manner. Nobody in IT has ever asked me what my role is, what applications I need or what levels of access I need? No, what you get is a corporate build that has been decided somewhere else based on the technology that IT has approved and to a process IT has decided. Some will argue that this is for security purposes but if you adequately secure the data and the user then the build doesn’t matter. The result of this is more often than not, productivity is impacted in some way or another through the provided technology. If more time was spent focusing on what the users needed, then productivity would no doubt rise.
When you look at most business projects, people end up buying products in some form. These are the outputs of a project plan and not the required goal. Think of the products as your ingredients and the business goal as the finished dish. It’s easy to buy ingredients but if you don’t put then together well the dish will no doubt tastes bad or can be ruined completely.
So, if you going to start looking at projects with the end in mind the first question has to be “What is the objective of this project”? Who are the beneficiaries, is it your business or your customers? To ensure you don’t get distracted by outputs consider the following questions for each project.
- What are the business drivers and why are we doing this project?
- What are the required and measurable business outcomes?
- Who is accountable for the business outcomes? Ownership is very important.
- How do you know when you’ve achieved the goal?
- Who is responsible for making sure all IT projects are aligned to business goals?
Always agree on metrics of success and ownership using the flow of why, what, who and how.
When business outcomes are identified, planned for and delivered via IT you enjoy the greatest amount of return on investment. If you are not doing this today, then you’re missing many new opportunities to grow. Plus limiting your impact in the markets, you operate.
Duolc’s whole engagement framework is built around delivering business outcomes. From conception to deliver and ongoing management.